On January the 7th, we across the pond watched in horror as the United States Capitol was infiltrated by far-right extremists in an alarming attack on democracy following the official announcement of Joe Biden as the country’s next president. After a year of feeling as though nothing more could surprise us, America once again patted us on the heads and declared: “hold my MAGA hat”, before rioting into the heart of their parliament building, as the world’s most powerful nutcase Donal Trump incited what may well be the greatest domestic breach of national security this generation has seen.
As onlookers across the globe gawped down at their social media feeds, lunatics storming the Capitol in a manner that could be described as both ridiculous and terrifying. Outrage sparked across international waters when contrasts began to be rightfully drawn between police responses to the violent reaction of sore-losing Neo-Nazis verses Black Lives Matter protests that grew momentum in 2020.
After a year of feeling as though nothing more could surprise us, America once again patted us on the heads and declared: “hold my MAGA hat”
The ease of entry these domestic terrorists had into the very heart of American government is a stark reminder that if you’re white in America, you can pretty much walk away from having committed a crime without so much as a slap on the wrist or a graze on your knee. Meanwhile, minorities in America are still very much scarred by the memory of murdered trans teens and black men shot on sight for going on a jog.
The incompetence of the police in an instance that was so severe it adds insult to injury for millions that have watched violent cops murder innocent civilians, whilst all the while actual criminals can return to their hotels smug and unharmed after a long hard day of violating democracy in their very own country. The irony of these fools protesting in the name of their rights drips from the spitted hatred that spouts from their mouths with each botched article to come out in the aftermath of that day.
It is, therefore, a vicious rubbing of salt in fresh wounds that social media giants Twitter and Facebook blocked Trump’s accounts following the video message where the leader of the free world spoke out to rioters with, “We love you, you’re all very special”. In recent months, Twitter has taken a stand against Trump by adding disclaimers to his tweets and suspending his account. Arguably, all very responsible measures of regulating free speak, without completely taking it away.
However, doesn’t this all feel a bit too little too late? Donald Trump has been President of the United States for four (painful, held-breath inducing) years and has been proclaiming lies since long before his presidency.
Why then has the likes of Twitter and Facebook decided only now to begin limiting Trump’s ability to control the minds of millions on his social platforms? It’s all very well and good to crunch down on the 45th president in the very moments when his successor has been democratically declared, but the damage has been well and truly done. Trump’s lies have become subjective truths in the minds of his supporters and it is fundamentally indisputable that the likes of Twitter and Facebook (alongside those in traditional media that indulged in his initial laugh-ability - looking at you Fox News and Jimmy Kimmel) were essential for the President’s success in the last election.
The figureheads of these platforms have the blood of their country’s democracy on their hands, and their feeble attempts of defiance feel like little more than a last minute scrabble to redeem themselves of responsibility in the eye of the public.
The figureheads of these platforms have the blood of their country’s democracy on their hands, and their feeble attempts of defiance feel like little more than a last minute scrabble to redeem themselves of responsibility in the eye of the public. Because the reality of these blocks, disclaimers and suspensions is that if Twitter and Facebook were genuinely concerned about the misinformation spreading into the minds of American citizens, their bosses would have begun monitoring Trump’s tweets when he first shared his long list of lies to his millions of followers, long before Trump entered the White House. The likes of Zuckerberg and Dorsey have offered the general public about as much safety as you’d lend a mouse after you’ve already locked it in a room with a cat. The cat will hunt on its prey, and no amount of opening the door or chasing the cat will reverse the damage.
Donal Trump’s popularity and presidential campaign was legitimised through his social media platform, a mostly unregulated means to dribble his lies to the world. But it’s not just Trump that needs to be monitored if we truly were to protect the rights of others. In 2019, Twitter had 330 million active users every single month. Behind this unfathomable number, extremists all over the globe hide behind their keyboards spouting hatred to undeserving people each day. Internet trolls have truly become the stuff of nightmares, made ever worse by their ability to spread news at an alarming rate, regardless of the falsities ridden within their tweets and posts.
Trump is an enigma that has changed the course of American politics forever.
For social media to exist as a universally safe space, for minorities in particular, there needs to be a serious overturn regarding the regulation of hate speech and fact-checking online. Hate groups such as white nationalists and supremacists feed on the idea that they are not alone. Social media enables these people to form online communities, creating vicious echo chambers that supply lies and deny truths, all the while targeting vulnerable people, either to terrorise them or recruit them.
Donald Trump’s access to Twitter and Facebook, without any fear of repercussions of blatantly spreading lies, sparked a revolution in America that spread like wildfire as his supporters fuelled each other on and burned down the decency of democracy in the process. Without these platforms and their ability to immediately and freely fill the minds of impressionable far-right devotees, there is a case to be made that had the likes of Twitter and Facebook made these changes at the beginning of Trump’s candidacy, this dangerous buffoon of a man may never have infiltrated the heights of American politics.
Whilst Facebook and Twitter (finally) deciding to limit Donald Trump’s access to so-called ‘alternative truths’ is a step in the right direction, in the case of Trump, this is all very much too late. Trump is an enigma that has changed the course of American politics forever. Blocking his account now cannot change the fact that he has already infiltrated the hearts and minds of millions of men and women filled with a taste of hatred and a desire for violence.